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Popular with British consumers as a snack for over 150 years, the Garibaldi biscuit is conventionally consumed with tea or coffee, into which it may be dunked in informal social settings. The biscuits also exist under different names in other countries including New Zealand.
When bought in supermarkets in the UK (under several brands, all remarkably similar), Garibaldi biscuits usually come in four strips of five biscuits each. They have a golden brown, glazed exterior and a moderately sweet pastry, but their defining characteristic is the layer of squashed fruit which gives rise to the colloquial names fly sandwiches, flies graveyards, dead fly biscuits or squashed fly biscuits, because the squashed fruit resemble squashed flies.
The Garibaldi biscuit was named after Giuseppe Garibaldi, an Italian general and leader of the struggle to unify Italy. Garibaldi made a popular visit to Tynemouth in England in 1854. The biscuit was first manufactured by the Bermondsey biscuit company Peek Freans in 1861 following the recruitment of Jonathan Carr, one of the great biscuit makers of Carlisle. In the United States, the Sunshine Biscuit Company for many years made a popular version of the Garibaldi with raisins which it called "Golden Fruit". Sunshine was bought out by the Keebler Company which briefly expanded the line to include versions filled with other fruits. The entire Golden Fruit product line was discontinued when the Keebler company became a division of the Kellogg Company in 2001. Plain chocolate covered and milk chocolate covered varieties have also been marketed in the past, but appear not to have been available for many years.
In popular culture
Garibaldis are the favourite tea biscuit of DCI Gene Hunt in the BBC shows Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes. They are also mentioned briefly in the prologue of Meera Syal's debut novel Anita and Me. Naomi Campbell, a character in British teen drama Skins, is quite fond of them. Inspector Japp offered one to Poirot in the episode "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe", about the death of Poirot's dentist. In the Doctor Who audio episode The Stuff of Nightmares, the fourth Doctor has a soggy Garibaldi. In Dinnerladies, Mr. Michael, the boss of HWD Components, is quite fond of them.
In the British sitcom Men Behaving Badly, Series 1, Episode 6, "My Brilliant Career" (1992), George (played by Ian Lindsay) tells his co-worker Anthea (played by Valerie Minifie), after Anthea hands him a package of biscuits, "I was wondering Anthea, maybe next week we could experiment, tentatively, with some Garibaldi."
In the British sitcom Oh, Doctor Beeching!, Series 1, Episode 4, "A Moving Story" (1996), May Skinner brings the Station Master some with his tea. Ethel Schumann says "We use to call them squashed fly biscuits" and Jack Skinner suggests they substitute biscuits with real squashed flies.
In the British TV comedy The Young Ones, Series 2, Episode 1, "Bambi" (1984), a train driver (Alexei Sayle) being held up by stereotypical Mexican bandits announces "It's quite interesting, you know, the number of biscuits that are named after revolutionaries. You've got your Garibaldi, of course, you've got your Bourbons, then of course you've got your Peek Freans Trotsky Assortment." [sings] "Revolutionary biscuits of Italy / Rise up out of your box! / You have nothing to lose but your wafers / Yum yum yum yum yum!"
In an Argos Alien advertising campaign, the father asks his family if they would like a cup of tea, and the daughter says "Don't forget the Garibaldis!"
- Daily Telegraph article refers to Garibaldi biscuits as "squashed flies"